Barrhead and Neilston in old picture postcards

Barrhead and Neilston in old picture postcards

Auteur
:   Irene I. Hughson
Gemeente
:  
Provincie
:   Renfrewshire, East
Land
:   United Kingdom
ISBN13
:   978-90-288-3273-2
Pagina's
:   80
Prijs
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Barrhead and Neilston in old picture postcards'

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INTRODUCTION

The sm all town of Barrhead, in the old county of Renfrewshire, lies at the edge of the flood plain of the Clyde roughly six mil es to the south-east of Paisley. The neighbouring village of Neilston is on higher ground to the south, perched above the gap cut by the river Levern. The surrounding landscape is dominated by Duncarnock, the resistant core of an ancient volcano, known locally as 'the Craigie' and Neilston Pad, another big wedge of volcanic material. Complex geological processes have produced a hummocky, sculpted type of landscape, rarely dramatic, but varied and interesting and commanding spectacular views of the sweep of mountains to the north-west, with Ben Lomond shouldering above them all, and of the town-filled lowlands of the Clyde stretching away to the east as far as the eye can see. The area has a long history of habitation. Stone-age people lived here and left evidence of their occupation in standing stones and in beautifully polished stone axe-heads. The hut circles of later bronze-age inhabitants have been identified, and some of their characteristic artefacts found.

During the iron age our area fell under the sway of Celtic warlords of the tribe known as the Darnnonii, They built a fort on Duncarnock whose ramparts are still clearly visible, and the pattern made by their field boundaries can still be discerned in some places. After a brief period of occupation here, the Romans withdrew behind Hadrian's Wall, apparently having come to an arrangement with the Damnonii that gave them the role of a buffer state. The Damnonii thereby managed to preserve their independenee and at the

same time enjoy some of the good things of the Roman way of life if finds of Roman coins and wine vessels are anything to go by.

When the Romans withdrew from Britain, the kingdom of Strathclyde, of which our area was a part, rernained independent, fighting off the threat of invasion and the possibility of being over-run by Angles, Scots and, later, Vikings. Place-name evidence suggests, however, that Scats and Angles were filtering in for many years before the annexation of Strathclyde by Malcolm II of Scotland at the beginning of the eleventh century.

It is in a charter dating from the reign of Malcolm's great, great grandson David I that we get the first reference in writing to Neilston. The parish church of Neilston is one of several who se revenues were appropriated to the new Priory of Paisley by its founder Walter FitzAlan, Steward of Scotland, and mentioned in its foundation charter in 1163.

It is difficult to-day looking at the relative sizes of Barrhead and Neilston, to appreciate that Neilston is by far the older of the two. While Neilston was the centre for the administration of parish affairs from the twelfth century onwards, Barrhead did not co me into existence until several hundred years later. lts existence was only officially recognised in 1894 wh en it was granted police burgh status.

Neilston parish, which included the area th at was later to become Barrhead, was never the scene of any epoch-making event or famous incident in the history of Scotland. None of Scotland's more charismatic characters lived here - no national heroes or

heroines. Yet during the eighteenth century things began happening in Neilston that made people sit up and take notice. Sir John Sinclair, editor of the Old Statistical Account of Scotland, selected the account of Neilston parish written by its minister, John Menteath, as one of six that he had translated and published on the continent, realising that here was the start of something big - sernething that was to change not only the face of Scotland, but the way of life of the whole western world. Neilston was one of the cradles of industry: Barrhead owes its existence to the manufacturing of textiles.

The foundations of the textile industry were laid by the monks of Paisley Abbey who master-rninded the waal trade in the area during the mediaeval period, Thus entrepreneurial and practical skills in the manufacture of woollen and linen cloth were developed long befare the introduetion of cotton. Neilston parish is blessed with a supply of pure water in burns and wells that was used firstly in the bleaching of cotton; (the first bleachfield in the parish was opened in 1765) th en in the cotton printing processes (the first printworks was opened in 1770), and thirdly to turn the great water wheels that powered the mechanised spinning mules. We share with Penicuik the distinction of having the first cotton spinning mills in mainland Scotland (1780).

The cotton industry expanded rapidly. Neilston parish was faced with a population explosion of epic proportions. Settlements grew fast and in haphazard fashion. Several small villages grew till they coalesced to farm the town of Barrhead. At the peak of the

cotton industry 's prosperity, about 1830, there were seven big mills on a two-mile stretch of the Levern, six printworks, and numerous bleachfields. But that peak did not last long. In a series of slumps, the smaller bleachfields were hit first. There was shorttime working at the mills and printworks. The recession of the 1890's dealt a blow to the local textile trade from which it never recovered.

As textiles waned, heavy industry taak over in Barrhead. The textile mills were modified and adapted, losing much of their original architectural appeal. Coal was mined yards from the Main Street. Shanks of Barrhead began in a brass foundry right in the middle of the town. There was an unhappy mixture of industrial premises and high density housing which, hastily built, rapidly deteriorated.

When the heavy industries in their turn began to decline and their pre mises became derelict, there was a general air of decay. During the last 25 years sweeping changes have been made in Barrhead. Many old buildings have gone - most of them na great loss, but some good on es have unfortunately gone toa.

The changes in Neilston have been less dramatic. Same old tenements have gone. But here the emphasis has been on refurbishment and the results are very

pleasing. .

I would like to thank all those who have allowed their postcards to be used, and in particular Peter J ohnstone, whose photographic expertise alone has made it possible for some of them to be reproduced.

1. THATCHED COTTAGES, NEILSTON

These cottages were close to the old manse in Neilston. Before the industrial revolution Neilston was a small village whose residents were for the most part farm workers. With the co ming of industry, the old way of life passed. Many changes occurred. The photographs in this book illustrate some of the changes that took place in the streets and in the surrounding countryside. They date from about 1870 and cover the period up to 1930. They come from the collections of Mrs. Meg Pollok, MI. Peter Johnstone, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, the late Mr. Jack Laws, Renfrew District Libraries, Paisley Museum and Barrhead and Neilston Historical Association.

2. THATCHED COTTAGE IN DEALSTON

Dealston was one of the small villages in the area which originally, like Neilston, housed agricultural workers and a few handloom weavers. The small villages grew as the textile industry expanded, eventually joining up to form Barrhead. The old cottages were replaced by more modern housing, and the separate identity of the individual villages was lost. There is no Dealston village now, but there is still a Dealston Road which leads from Paisley Road to Stobs Drive.

Berrhesd from Fereneze Brees

3. BARRHEAD FROM THE FERENEZE BRAES

When this postcard was printed Barrhead was a very small town in a rural situation. Though the town has continued to grow throughout this century, and the built-up areas of Paisley and Glasgow have reached out further towards it, Barrhead has remained a small town, fiercely proud of its separate identity, whose citizens ean still look out from the Main Street itself to the rolling countryside beyond,

4. KELBURN ST REET IN 1870

Kelburn Street takes the tra veIler south from Barrhead towards Neilston, At the point from which the photograph was taken, looking back towards Barrhead, the road divides. The branch to the right of the picture is the 'high' road to Neilston; that to the left, the 'low' road to lrvine. Now the A 736, it was built as a turnpike road and opened in 1820. Today this is a very busy junction, and it is hard to imagine it ever being quiet enough for people to stop and pose for a photographer.

5. THE HIGH 8TREET, NEILST√ľN

This photograph dates from about 1870. If it were not for Neilston Parish Church in the background it would be difficult to identify the scene. The thatched cottages have gone; the two-storied buildings, with shops below and houses above, have gone. The street is much wider now with a formal garden area on the left. The parish church has been robuilt and altered several times in its long history . The oldest existing masonry forms part of the back wall and contains a fine Gothic window of fifteenth century origin. It is incorporated into the post-Reformation building which was low with a single storey only until 1786 when it was heightened and given its distinctive tower and bell-cote.

6. GLANDERSTON HOUSE

Glanderston estate belonged to a branch of the Mure family who built the house in the photo to replace an earlier one in 1697. The Mures sold the estate in 1774 and it later became the property of Speirs of Elderslie, a Glasgow tobacco baron who used much of his fortune buying land in Renfrewshire. The house was let out. The artist E.A. Walton, a member of the famous 'Glasgow Group', was bom here in 1860. His was the last family to live in the house. lnthe foreground is Glanderston Dam, which was built to supply water to Springhill Bleachfield and subsequently to South Arthurlie Printworks.

31'aig 0/ (]a1'1%OOK, .J(eifsfon

7. GLANDERSTON DAM AND THE CRAIGIE

By the turn of the century, Glanderston House was in ruins. The waters of the dam look placid enough in this postcard, but the scene must have been very different on the stormy December night in 1842 when the dam burst and the flood water poured down through Springhill, village and works, claiming the lives of nine victims. Behind the dam is the Craigie, the site of an iron-age fort. The approach to the summit is precipitous on three sides, and very steep on the fourth, making it an eminently suitable defensive position. Earth ramparts were built to reinforce the natural defences and these can still be seen,

8. SOUTH ARTHURLIE PRINTWORKS

These printworks are closely associated with the Heys farnily, though they were in operation befare Zecariah Heys, the founding father of that famous Barrhead dynasty, arrived from the south. The works were semi-derelict as a result of one of the periodic recessions from which the cotton industry suffered, when he bought them in 1842. Under his management the works were revitalised and returned to prosperity. They continued to operate till the 1930's. The gate in the picture is a garden gate which led from the bottom of the private garden of the Heys family's mansion at South Arthurlie, into the works, The mansion still exists. The works have gone but the system of lades and ponds built to control the supply of water to them can still be seen.

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